Inside the Mind of a Literary Icon

by Alex Frazer-Harrison

It’s not often you can get inside the head of a famous writer, but, thanks to a collection of one-of-a-kind notebooks and letters at UCalgary, researchers can do just that with iconic Canadian author Alice Munro.

It’s little surprise this collection is one of associate university librarian Annie Murray’s favourite acquisitions in Archives and Special Collections.

“I love her notebooks,” Murray says. “They’re just humble coil notebooks, like we’d find at a drug store. There are traces of her everyday life in the notebooks. Her kids were around her playing, and sometimes they’d draw in the notebooks, too. They’re a real cross-section of the writer’s life.”

Just as fascinating for Murray was seeing how the Nobel Prize-winning writer, either by hand or by typewriter, would jot down notes, story ideas and potential character names. The archive also includes correspondence between Munro and fellow writers, publishers and the New Yorker, which printed many of her stories.

A new project, Visualizing a Canadian Author Archive, recently launched involving researchers from English, Classics and Religion, and Computer Science.

“Alice Munro is one of the most highly consulted archives we have,” says Murray, noting that the library first approached Munro, who is now in her late 80s, about obtaining her archive back in the 1970s, when the university saw an opportunity to collect the archives of Canadian writers, composers, historians and architects.

For information about donating items to the archives, call Annie Murray at 403.210.9521, or email amurr@ucalgary.ca. For information about donating financially to Libraries and Cultural Resources through Energize: The Campaign for Eyes High, visit ucalgary.ca/campaign.


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